Hello and welcome to this glorious Saturday, March 6, 2021. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
Author, speaker, and activist, Brian McLaren identified in his book, Why Don’t They Get It? Overcoming Bias in Others (and Yourself), thirteen different ways in which our thinking is biased:
Confirmation Bias: We assess new ideas based on our existing ideas. If they agree with what we already believe, we tend to accept them, if not we tend to dismiss them.
Complexity Bias: We prefer the simplest explanation.
Community Bias: It’s improbable that one can see outside of the community in which they live.
Complementarity Bias: If our ideas are challenged, we’ll challenge theirs. If our ideas are complemented, we accept theirs.
Competency Bias: We don’t know what we don’t know. And because we don’t know what we don’t know, we tend to underestimate our incompetence and overestimate our competence.
Consciousness Bias: Some lessons can only be learned through experience and we must wait until our minds are primed and ready.
Comfort or Complacency Bias: We don’t like being uncomfortable and tend to challenge ideas that create tension.
Conservative/Liberal Bias: We tend to hold true to what our political party defines as right/wrong, good/bad.
Confidence Bias: “I think therefore it is true.”
Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: We tend to ignore the slow decay and focus primarily on catastrophes.
Cash Bias: Sometimes our making a living requires us to not see the truth.
Conspiracy Bias: When challenged or under stress, we look for stories that exonerate us or portray us as victims.
Contact Bias: When we spend time only with our like-minded friends, our beliefs go unchallenged.
When I came across these a few days ago, I was astounded. I resonated with each one. In reflection, I was able to identify how my thinking and beliefs have been influenced by each category. I could write a weekly letter for each one of these areas of concern. Who knows, maybe I will. But for today, I want to focus primarily on the last one, contact bias, because it’s so incredibly appealing and socially acceptable – hanging out with like-minded friends.
I want to start by saying that there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with wanting to associate with like-minded friends. The safety and the camaraderie of like-minded friends are important to our well-being. Having conversations with our chummiest helps us to grow and learn. Nevertheless, if we think about this in the form of contact bias, we can meow see the danger in only hanging with the homies.
In my social justice graduate studies, we spent many hours exploring the phenomenon of “othering.” This is the means by which we identify and categorize others by their differences. And because differences often challenge our perspective, we tend to avoid that which creates tension. The more we dodge and evade “others,” the more they are shrouded in mystery and looked at with skepticism. As we become more and more distant, the differences become blindingly visible and any similarity is written off as sheer coincidence, “I most certainly do not have anything in common with those people.” “They” become dark and dangerous.
Unfortunately, we see this happening within our divisive political climate. Without frequent contact, we lose sight of our similarities and our dependence upon them in our society.
If we are to know lasting peace, it won’t come about by isolating ourselves from people who don’t think like us. With a sense of curiosity and interest, we can step out of our comfort zones and explore. I have found that all of us ultimately want the same things: safety, security, peace, happiness. Just like us, others have known hardship, sadness, and despair. Just like us, others are doing their best to get their needs met and to learn how to live. Just like us, everyone is trying to avoid suffering and find happiness. And, just like us, we all have our biases and presuppositions about how the world should operate.
Sometimes when we try to communicate with others, we often walk away feeling frustrated. Maybe the thought “they won’t listen” arises in your mind. You’re right. Due to their biases, they can’t hear you. Due of our biases, we can’t hear them. They are equally frustrated in trying to communicate with us. Regardless, it’s not our responsibility to make them hear us. It’s our responsibility to identify and overcome the limiting thoughts, beliefs, and ideas the prevent us from seeing clearly. Bias blinds.
As St. Francis of Assisi says, “It’s better to understand than to be understood.”
I’m grateful that you are with me on this path.
You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!
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